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We need to create a new generation of built environment experts, says architect Rogers

With over half the world’s population now living in cities, architect Richard Rogers has called for a new generation of built-environment professionals − with skills in architecture, planning and civil engineering − to ensure future urban developments are properly designed.

In an exclusive briefing for the March issue of ICE’s Urban Planning and Design journal, Lord Rogers − whose practice designed the Pompidou Centre in Paris, the Lloyds building in London, the Millennium Done (now O2) and more recently One Hyde Park − said cities are fundamental to mankind’s existence so it is vital to get them right.

“The city has been around for 5,000 years, and in some ways it hasn’t changed. The compact, well-connected city encourages a good social mix, walking, cycling and use of public transport.

“It is the only environmentally sustainable form of urban building.” But he warned that cities “can humanise or brutalise us depending on the quality of the design”.

Limitations

Rogers said planners tend to work only in two dimensions and architects are often limited in their knowledge of critical urban issues such as sociology, transport, infrastructure and engineering.

“UK universities should offer a general ‘built environment’ first degree in which architecture, planning, transport, civil engineering and landscape architecture are all taught together for a few years before specialising,” he said.

“This approach is already in place in university courses in continental Europe.”

He also believed that better, more-informed procurement or urban design is needed. In particular, he said designers should not have to enter competitions for funding in partnership with developers or contractors so that design issues can be assessed independently of cost and procurement.

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